According to the spin in the right-wing media, Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker is standing up to public workers by pushing for hefty cuts to their compensation and stripping their collective bargaining rights. While this story fits nicely into the Right’s long war on organized labor, it is far removed from reality.
The state’s projected $137 million budget deficit was not a result of payments to public employees, but rather caused by Walker’s $140 million corporate welfare scheme.
The Madison based-newspaper The Cap Times reveals that the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau “determined that the state will end the year with a balance of $121.4 million.” Rather than face fiscal catastrophe, Wisconsin was on the path to a balanced budget and even a surplus. But then “Walker and his allies pushed through $140 million in new spending for special-interest groups in January,” creating the fiscal “crisis.”
According to the group One Wisconsin Now, Walker’s budget schemes included:
• $25 million for an economic development fund for job creation that still has $73 million due to a lack of job creation. Walker is creating a $25 million hole which will not create or retain jobs.
• $48 million for private health savings accounts, which primarily benefit the wealthy. A study from the federal Governmental Accountability Office showed the average adjusted gross income of HSA participants was $139,000 and nearly half of HSA participants reported withdrawing nothing from their HSA, evidence that it is serving as a tax shelter for wealthy participants.
• $67 million for a tax shift plan, so ill-conceived that at best the benefit provided to ‘job creators’ would be less than a dollar a day per new job, and may be as little as 30 cents a day.”
In fact, Wisconsin public employees in the state are not “overpaid” as many Republicans claim. A study by the Economic Policy Institute found that “employees of both state and local governments in Wisconsin earn less than comparable private sector employees.”
The budget deficit is of Walker’s own making, and now he wants working families to pay for it.